Daniel Jones' basketball past, diverse skills show up on field for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was all there for the world to see. New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones running down the sideline, jumping, extending one-handed to make the kind of catch off a pass from wide receiver Dante Pettis that is usually reserved for the wide receivers Jones targets.

"Daniel Beckham Jr. Folks. That's the tweet," injured wide receiver Kadarius Toney tweeted afterward, blending Jones' highlight-reel catch in Sunday's 25-3 victory against the Carolina Panthers with Odell Beckham Jr.'s classic grab.

Maybe it wasn't quite as graceful or the same degree of difficulty as Beckham's play, but it was impressive. Jones is a quarterback, a position at which the prerequisites don't include the need to make leaping grabs.

Not that this fact made him any less critical of the play.

"I don't think the route was very good," said Jones in his usual self-deprecating style.

His route running was hardly the point. Jones doesn't play wide receiver or tight end, even though Giants safety Logan Ryan said Jones was QB1, RB1 and WR1 on Sunday.

"I didn't know he had that," Ryan said.

Jones couldn't remember the last time he had caught a pass in a game, meaning it goes back deep into his childhood. But he's an athlete, an accomplished basketball player for Charlotte Latin High School.

Giants coach Joe Judge said Jones made a one-handed catch on a practice attempt during the week. That only added to their belief he was a more than capable target.

"He didn't drop any," Judge said. "We had a couple, I would say, errant throws. It was a little bit of tryouts on the field at times, but Dante comes from a baseball family, so I'm sure he's not going [home] for Thanksgiving in the future if he doesn't make that throw."

The play provided the latest evidence that Jones is a much better athlete than even his coaches and teammates realized when he was drafted sixth overall in the 2019 NFL draft out of Duke.

Ryan has heard of Jones' basketball prowess and wants a piece of the QB on the court, but he might not realize what he's getting himself into.

"I'm sure those guys can ball, too, but [Daniel is] a good player. He'll give anyone a hard time," said Jones' younger brother, Bates, who played at Davidson before transferring this year as a fifth-year senior to Duke.

The Giants have been tapping into Jones' skills plenty this season. They moved the pocket continuously Sunday, and he has been running the ball with regularity. His 229 rushing yards rank third among quarterbacks, behind only Baltimore's Lamar Jackson and Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts.

Jones' 21.23 mph speed on an 80-yard run when he eventually tripped against the Philadelphia Eagles last season is the fastest recorded time by a quarterback since he entered the league.

It is hardly a surprise to those who know him well.

"He's an old-school, great athlete," said ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who coached his son, Anthony, and Jones' AAU basketball team for several years. "He can run and jump and everything, but what he can really do is he can play every sport. And there aren't many people like that."

Jones comes from an athletic family. In addition to Bates, his young sister, Ruthie, a goalie, shut out No. 1 Florida State to help the Duke women's soccer team pull the upset on Sunday. His older sister, Rebecca, was a field hockey player at Davidson.

"He had a high IQ," Bates said of Daniel's hoops game. "But he got his toughness, I'd like to think, trying to guard me in the backyard."

Jones can also golf, and Bilas believes he was a Division I basketball talent. Their AAU team included Grant Williams (Boston Celtics), and Bilas' scouting report says Jones (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) could guard multiple positions, was a relentless rebounder, really good passer and could shoot from midrange and distance.

"I don't want to suggest he's [Golden State Warriors star] Steph Curry," Bilas said. "But he could make shots. He's a good shooter."

Weaknesses: A "reluctant shooter." Too unselfish at times.

So predictable.

Bilas likes to tell a story to friends about the time he got tired of watching his son and Jones not being aggressive scorers. He told them if they didn't force a charge by driving to the basket before halftime, they wouldn't play the second half. Each drove and got an and-1 and looked over to the bench as if to ask if that was good enough.

Nope. Bilas wanted more, he says with a chuckle when rehashing the incident.

Still, he raved about Jones' overall game. Jones won the MVP award at Bilas' camp heading into his senior year despite showing up the first day with a cast on the wrist he had previously broken. That eventually came off, and he excelled.

"I had mentioned to [his dad] Steve [Jones] after that camp, if he decides that he doesn't want to play football, he's a D-I basketball player," Bilas said. "I keep hearing people say, 'Could you have been a walk-on at Duke?'

"A walk-on at Duke? Daniel would have played. I'm not saying he would have started at Duke, but he would have played."

Ryan still wants that game of one-on-one.

"He talks about he's a good basketball player," the safety said after Sunday's game. "I know he's hearing me right now. We still haven't lined it up on the court. ... Daniel's a competitor. I think he shows that he puts his body on the line to do whatever it takes running."

And throwing. And catching.

Jones might be self-deprecating and unselfish, but he doesn't lack confidence.

"I like my chances against Logan," he said, "and a lot of those guys in that locker room."